~Guest of Cindy Sherman
Guest of Cindy Sherman
Directed by Paul H-O and Tom Donahue
April 25, 2008 by JAN ALBERT
This extremely entertaining film packs a damn good story into its swift paced 88 minutes. The behind-the-scenes art scene gossip will be like catnip for the artlovers aficionado, but it also frames a genuinely compelling modern love affair that will appeal even to those who are only mildly curious about who’s hot and who’s not in the art world.
When we first meet our hero, a shaggy, genial charmer named Paul H-O
(Hasegawa-Overacker), he is about to be divorced and has just fallen in love with his first video camera. The film follows his real life rise and fall as host (along with Walter Robinson of Artnet) of GALLERYBEAT, an irreverent public access TV show that covered Soho back in the day; interviewing new and occasionally famous faces at the gallery and museum openings. Most definitely, a spiritual ancestor of artloversnewyork.com, in the days before the wide world web, GALLERYBEAT provided a slapstick, but telling look at a multi-million dollar crap game that generally takes itself way too seriously.
H-O and his co-director, Tom Donahue, establish his character by drawing on absolutely great archival footage from the GALLERYBEAT era and we see him interacting with a virtual Who’s Who of the art world, from stars like Brice Marden and Julian Schnabel (who throws an enjoyable snit on camera about the stupidity of the GALLERYBEAT hosts) and a slew of up and comers who have since gone on to fame and fortune, like Tracey Emin and Spencer Tunick. Then, he meets Cindy Sherman.
I would warrant that even if you are not into art world doings, you have heard the name, Cindy Sherman. An artist with a singular vision, she is her own muse. Over the years, she has submerged her own persona and made herself anew hundreds of times, photographing herself heavily made up and costumed as iconic movie stars like Marilyn, suburban housewives, trailer trash, post punk waifs, clowns, even male characters. Her body of work is widely collected and individual prints have sold for millions.
We watch Paul H-O and Cindy meet cute at the opening of one of her shows in the early 90’s. The sweetest part of the picture is watching sparks between them ignite as the notoriously private artist allows him to visit her studio and he woos her over a series of interviews. Eventually, they move in together and for a while they have a groovy thing going. He teaches her how to surf; she gives him entry to the epicenter of the art world. Soon, they meet each other’s families and are flying off to London and L.A. for Cindy’s openings, with Paul H-O compulsively videotaping every step of the way.
In addition to this intimate footage, Paul H-O charts the course of their affair through interviews with an incredible parade of witnesses and friends of the couple, like actresses Molly Ringwald, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Carol Kane, and art world comrades such as Robert Longo, Eli Broad, Roberta Smith, Ingrid Sischy and Eric Fischl, to name just a few.
Cindy gets ever richer and more famous. Paul gets in a fight with his landlord and goes bankrupt. GALLERYBEAT comes to an end and he can’t get a new project off the ground. His full time job becomes escorting Cindy around the world and he starts to feel pretty sorry for himself. The breaking point for him comes when they attend a glitzy function and he is placed rooms away from his significant other at a table with a place card reading, “GUEST OF CINDY SHERMAN”.
To her credit, Sherman comes off as about the most supportive mate in the world. She even encourages him to make a film exploring his confusion, but eventually she has had enough and Paul is history.
To his credit, despite acting tiresome and pathetic for a while, Paul H-O regains his sense of humor and uses this film to try to search for the meaning of it all. In one wonderful sequence, he calls into his favorite radio talk show and earnestly discusses his failed relationship with the two female hosts. In the eyes of some, he hit the big time, “caught the biggest wave of his life”, as one observer puts it, but blew it.
And this to me is what really resonates about GUEST OF CINDY SHERMAN.
Beyond the phalanx of famous and near famous faces, beyond my unease about the exploitation of a person who has gone out of her way to conceal her identity, then let herself go to fall in love with a guy who lives on camera, beyond the ironic take on the reality show our lives have become, is it’s naked examination of that delicate balance of power between male and female.
I have a number of friends who are in couples where the woman is the main breadwinner. Many of them claim to feel just fine about – “it’s no problem”. And it should be fine, but judging by the comments in this fascinating film from the lesser-known halves of power couples like Elton John and David Furnish, and Molly Ringwald and Panio Gianopoulos, and from the tale of Paul H-O, himself, I’d say, we’ve come a long way, Baby, but we still have a long way to go.
check out: ‘Guest of Cindy Sherman’/official website
For show times – Sunday, April 27th – Saturday, May 7th 2008,
TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL